I admit, there's been a lot of things that surprised me about the Oz books. I mean, I'd kind of known bits of it. I knew that the Wicked Witch of the East's slippers were supposed to be silver and not ruby red, and that it didn't end with Dorothy waking up from a dream. And I knew about the Wheelies from the old Return to Oz movie - and the lady with the removable heads. And I'd seen some of the Wizard of Oz anime, which had the first appearance of the Knome King.
But there was so much I hadn't been expecting. I'm five books in and one of the things that sticks out the most is just how many single queens rules various realms Dorothy travels too. You get the odd king, but there's a vast number of matriarchal kingdoms in Baum's stories. Not to mention just how badass a lot of the women are, not so much with the Action Girl trope, but powerful in their own ways.
The sequel to the Wizard of Oz is especially sneaky with this. It starts you off with an evil witch who's going to cook a little boy and a group of seemingly feminist women who take over the Emerald City just to have all the jewels. And then we get the heroes to Glinda and we not just learn more about the land of Oz, but we learn where the lost princess of Oz is hiding and suddenly everything flips around. (Sorry, I'm not going to say much more that that because I don't want to spoil the fun for anyone who hasn't read it yet.)
And I find it sad that I've never heard a lot about how awesome this series actually is for female characters. Like, people repeat bits of the movie and remember that so much, but there's just so much richness beyond that. The sheer number of cool fairy creatures Baum comes up with is amazing. It's not just the same few traditional fairy tale creatures with a bit of new paint. The more I read about Oz, the more I want to write about it. There's so many little hints of things he drops into the stories and there's just so much you can do with it all.